SCAET building at Sheridan's Trafalgar Road Campus

Pilot project highlights need for further research into needs and preferences of oldest baby boomers

Jan 21, 2016

What do well-known Canadians such as Eugene Levy, Serge Savard and Ginette Reno have in common with Americans Bill Clinton, Liza Minnelli and Cher?  The answer is that all of them represent the oldest of the Baby Boomer generation and each will be celebrating their 70th birthday in 2016.

While Baby Boomers constitute one of the fastest growing population segments in Canada, there is very little research data available to reflect the unique experiences and opinions of those boomers as they begin to turn 70 and upward.  (The so-called Baby Boom Generation is widely defined as those people who were born between Jan. 1, 1946 and Dec. 31, 1964, the 18 years after the end of World War II). Canada, along with the rest of North America, is facing a wave of aging never witnessed before, with older adults remaining active as citizens, consumers and workers.

There is a clear need for further research and a better understanding of this age group in order to prepare for the changing demographic landscape. Recognizing this, the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research, through their partnership with AGEWORKS™, recently created the ENGAGE 70+ Consumer Insight Panel in order to gather ongoing insights and perspectives of this age cohort

“The very size and growth rates of this particular age category highlight the necessity of significant structural changes to Canadian society in terms of economic, social and cultural practices”, says Pat Spadafora, Director, Sheridan Centre for Elder Research. “We need to learn more about what Canadians (70+) think and feel, how they communicate and what they expect from businesses and society.”

To launch the panel, the Centre, in collaboration with AGEWORKS™, created an initial survey  designed to collect quantitative as well as qualitative data from respondents on select topics related to aging, social issues and marketing. This survey also served as a recruitment tool for inviting respondents to join as permanent members of the panel and has resulted in a solid founding membership of 100 adults 70+.

The pilot study was distributed online during October 2015 and the results have just been analyzed. The results confirm a number of interesting characteristics about the habits and behaviours of adults 70+. Highlights include:

Adults over 70 are more technologically savvy than one might expect:

The adults represented in this survey own laptops, cell phones and computers and know how to use them (the older woman in the computer store is probably not shopping for a grandchild).

  • Not only do they use different types of services and apps than previous generations, many have an active online presence and can be reached and heard through these platforms.
  • Although not all adults 70+ have discovered the benefits of social media (i.e., Twitter, Instagram), many use email and Facebook.

Not all the “older” marketing tools work.

  • Although older adults still prefer to receive new product information from newspapers, there is a growing interest by mature consumers for access to online product reports, reviews, customer service and return policies.

While some stereotypes persist, adults over 70 are still active, contributing members of society.

  • Although the majority of respondents are active and have no difficulty in getting out and being engaged, older adults still face discrimination on a daily basis.  The biggest issues revolve around a feeling of being ignored, lack of respect and a lack of products and services to suit their needs.

“This type of research is critical”, says Ann Hossack, Principal at AGEWORKS™.  “The results from the survey are important indicators suggesting that a large number of older adults are well-educated, active members of society and that Canadian businesses need to take a more active position in adapting and acknowledging mature adults as their consumers.”

Moving forward, the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research and AGEWORKS™ anticipate that the results of the pilot survey will open doors to corporate sponsorship that will support the expansion of the ENGAGE70+ Consumer Insight Panel and the distribution of further surveys across the country. 

“Our goal is to work with these businesses to assist them in creating new and/or modifying existing products and services that will address the specific needs of active Canadians as they advance into and beyond their 70s,” says Pat Spadafora. “Businesses that take the lead and plan ahead for the changing demographic landscape are sure to profit from their investment, especially since not all adults 70+ have the same needs, interests or shared experiences,” she adds. 

About Sheridan Centre for Elder Research

Founded in 2003, the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research provides a unique environment for conducting applied research into areas of practical concern and immediate relevance to older adults and their families.  The Centre develops innovative approached and creative interdisciplinary partnerships that focus on enhancing the lives of older Canadians.


AGEWORKS™ is committed to reducing the ageism stigma and debunking myths about older people in both the workplace and the marketplace.  AGEWORKS™  not only raises awareness of issues associated with ageism but has introduced tangible  initiatives to  celebrate companies who engage in age-friendly business and employee practices, build intergenerational respect and create employment opportunities for people 50+ through seminars, workshops, services and programs. While many see the aging population as a problem, AGEWORKS™ sees it as an opportunity to positively impact the Canadian economy and the lives of generations to come by maximizing the skills, talents, experience and buying power of boomers.


For further information, to join the panel or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Pat Spadafora

Director, Sheridan Centre for Elder Research

905-845-9430 x 8615

Ann Hossack

Principal, AGEWORKS™


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